Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Perspective, people.

A few years ago there were headlines about research that indicated that most people don't know the difference between a search engine and a browser. There's a good description of the phenomenon at this blog post, along with this video of pedestrians in Times Square describing the "difference", in case you don't believe it.

I loved this bit of news. It really punctured the bubble of the high-flying digerati who are busy talking about whether Kickstarter is making nonprofits obsolete or if people are upset about Flickr using flash instead of HTML5*. Really, the number of people who even know these issues even exist is a vanishingly small portion of the public. The majority of internet users know that there's this internet thing that happens in this box on their computer and they can type things into that space at the top to read the news.

Any time you're talking or thinking about something technology-related, you should keep this in mind. 90% of everyone is not even going to understand the words you're saying, let alone care. They interact with technology on a very pragmatic, basal level. And honestly, that's okay. There's no obligation to spend a big portion of your life learning about this complicated realm. Maybe you don't have the time. Maybe you have to prepare that presentation or get groceries. Even if not, perhaps you'd rather work on your bike or go to a show. Those are legitimate interests, as is technology.

However, I happen to have an interest in technology so I usually enjoy these types of stories**. I just get a little fed up now and then when I remember how little it really, actually matters.

Anyway, now I just heard on This Week In Google (like I said, I do enjoy this stuff) that 90% of the American public doesn't know how to use Ctrl+F in a webpage. Bam! Again, we get our perspective re-adjusted.

It's not that I think everyone is clueless with computers. But I like these little reminders that there are a lot of assumptions we make about computer literacy and they aren't all based in reality.

Footnote: Google employee Dan Russell gave that Ctrl+F figure on TWIG #88, somewhere near mid-way.

*FYI, if you're trying to think of examples of this kind of fluff, a great resource is just browsing the Mashable front page.
**But I still don't like Mashable.

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